Lights So Lovely

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We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it. – Madeleine L’Engle

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life. John 8:12

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

We live in a confusing and tragic time. Natural disasters, political chaos, and horrific tragedies surround us. As Christians, we hold the treasure of the gospel, the good news that brings hope and light into our dark world.

However, the best way to share that treasure effectively is to shine as lights, reflecting the light of Christ, in our communities and in the lives of the people we know . Jesus told us that we were the light of the world. The apostle Paul said that we hold the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels. The Bible tells us over and over again about the patience, the kindness, the gentleness that God has for His children. How can we, as His representatives and with His Spirit within us, be any less patient, kind, and gentle with those around us?

If we are shining as lights, if we are loving and kind, if we are sacrificial in our care for one another, the people in our lives will come to us to find out the secret of why and how we can live that way? While there may be those who choose darkness, there are also many whom God is calling, those drawn to His light and love and joy.

It is important that we live our lives with love and gladness and joy and service because the world is watching us. Why do we choose to give up our own rights for others? Why do we love the unlovely? Why do we sacrifice our own time/money/power to help others? Why do we give up our own wills to serve others?

The Christians in ancient Rome drew the attention of even the emperor because they rescued and raised the children, who had been left to die in the streets and on the hillsides. Christians fed the hungry, they cared for the sick, they clothed the naked. They weren’t powerful politically. Most of them were rather poor, especially once the persecutions started. But, in the end, Christianity overcame all the pagan gods because of love, just as God’s love overcomes all of our own defenses and rushes in and sweeps away our preconceptions, our false ideals, our barriers.

For who can defend against pure love? Who can hide forever from the light? One of the things that confused the Jews most was that Jesus did not come as a conquering king, riding a white horse, and expelling the Romans from the Promised Land. Instead, He came to serve and to die so that He might save His people from their sins. His love conquered their hearts. His love conquers our hearts. And His love will conquer the hearts of all those whom God has called.

John Donne said it well in his poem:

BATTER my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
Labour to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely’I love you,’and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee.

It is the love of God which batters his heart, enthralls and ravishes him. The love of God will do the same to and for us. Christ said a servant is not greater than his master. Thus, we should not expect to share the gospel except by the means He used.

Jesus never allowed for sin or idols in people’s lives, but He always spoke to them in the context of loving them. He loved the rich young ruler when He said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” He had compassion on the Samaritan women at the well when He shared with her that He could give her living water and He spared the woman caught in adultery with the admonition to repent.

I think if people around us are offended, it ought to be because of their rejection of the gospel message itself, not the delivery. In the song Could You Believe, Twila Paris wrote:

Could you believe if I really was like Him
If I lived all the words that I said
If for a change I would kneel down before you
And serve you instead
Could you believe?

Let us be the sweet aroma of Christ to our neighbors and friends. Let us serve them with gladness and joy. Let us shine so brightly and beautifully that “that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it” as Madeleine L’Engle said.

Do you live this kind of life? I am aware of my continual failures, of my sinful selfishness and self-absorption. But the desire of my heart is to live for Christ and so I am compelled, I am persuaded that this way of life is the means by which we can spread the good news abroad of Jesus and His love. Won’t you join me in living in such a way that the watching world says, “I want what they have.”

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The Farmer’s Market


Having a rare Saturday off work today, I decided to go over to our local Farmer’s Market.  I wanted some vegetables for dinner and some local honey for allergy prevention.

What a great place!  There were rows of vegetables and fruits, flowers and plants, nut butters, honey, and so much more.  I had a strict budget which I kept, with much difficulty, until I came upon a plant stall.  At this point, I lost my heart to a gorgeous coneflower.  The farmer and I had a great chat about my growing adventures this year (which I must share with you all one of these days), and he gave me some good advice for encouraging the white coneflower plant I already have, which has struggled this summer.

Then I saw some cockscomb.  I had fallen in love with this flower while at Monticello last week and was thrilled to buy some for my dining room table.  After I bought it, the farmer showed me where the seeds were located (100’s of them) and told me to save them and plant them in my garden next summer.  How fun is that?

It was a lovely, cool morning, and I came home laden with vegetables, fruit, and flowers.  What a great way to spend a Saturday morning!

Experiments with sourdough

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I plan to teach a class on baking bread from a starter at my library this Fall.  While I have often done this in the past, I always “cheated” and used yeast in my original starter to get it going. I’ve used the traditional liquidy kind of starter and the old dough method, but this time I decided to try to create my own starter with flour, water, and time.

I did a bit of research (my favorite thing to do) and found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour site. I also read a blog post with more details here.  I bought some whole grain rye flour and a gallon of distilled water and set to work.

The first batch was a complete failure.  After four days, I forgot to feed it and came down to find it moldy and stinky.  So, I threw it away.

My second try, on the other hand, was a success.  I didn’t forget to feed it and after five days, I had lovely big air bubbles in it. By day six, it was overflowing my crock after only four hours so today I made my first batch of bread (view the photo above).

I admit that this was a “cheat” in that I used this recipe which included a small amount of additional yeast.  However, as you can see, the loaves came out beautifully. They have a nice even crumb with a great brown crust.

Next week, when I have more time, I plan to try out this recipe which requires no extra yeast.

Has anyone else experimented with starters and successfully baked bread with no extra yeast added?  I’d love to hear from you.

 

Planning for Senior Year

As you may be able to see from the pile of books above, we will be covering many subjects, including 20th century history and literature.  The chemistry book has not yet arrived, and the precalculus book is already being used for the dual enrollment class.

My planning is made so much easier by the wonderful book selections and schedules at Ambleside Online.  For the past 10+ years I have been hanging out over on that website, reading, learning, and borrowing their lists, schedules, and ideas.  This past summer I had the great privilege of meeting two of the creators of Ambleside Online, Lynn Bruce and Karen Glass, and their conversations were even more helpful and fabulous as I could have imagined after looking through all that the AO Advisory has done over the years.

Another main resource for me has been the ClassEd email group of which I’ve been a part since 2000.  These ladies (and gentlemen from time to time) have shared curricula suggestions, teaching tips, lesson plans, and prayed for my family for many years.  I know that we could never have done all that we did without their wisdom and support.  It really struck home how much they have supported us over the years when the husband of one of the long-time members of ClassEd mentioned how their family had prayed for our family for many years.  What a sweet fellowship we have begun on earth to be continued into eternity.

Along with Honors Chemistry and Precalculus/Calculus at our local community college, we will studying Latin, Bible, Art and Music appreciation, Shakespeare, and 20th century history and literature.  This is my third time through 20th century history in our homeschool, and while there are some bleak books written the past century, there are also some great books, which I look forward to discussing with my youngest son.  Some of the titles we will be reading: A History of the Twentieth Century, Testament of Youth , The Men Behind Hitler, The Hiding Place, Call to Conscience, The Hungarian Revolt, Economics in One Lesson, The Great Gatsby, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Chosen, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, Sophie’s World, and Heart of Darkness.

We will also be continuing our reading through some of the Great Books together.  We have finished The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Aeneid, The Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost.  Last year we started Les Miserables and will finish it this fall after which we will read Crime and Punishment.  This will be my first time reading Dostoevsky and I’m a bit intimidated but still looking forward to it.

Also, after attending an excellent workshop on T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets this past summer, I’m adding T.S. Eliot to our poetry studies.  I’ve been given several titles to read in preparation of teaching Eliot’s poetry so that I at least have a glimmer as to what he is saying in his poems.  We will also read the poetry of the World War I poets and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

As I mentioned in my last post, I want to finish strong with my youngest son.  If we read and study these books, I believe that we will run our last lap of our homeschool journey well.

I’d love to hear about anyone else’s plans for this next year.  Please do share in the comments.

First Sunday of Advent (a day late)

  
The First Sunday in Advent is Hope. The hope of light in darkness, of joy in sorrow, of life in death, of a Savior to take away the sins of the world.  

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.   – Book of Common Prayer

Blogs that I love – Homemaking

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Last week, I talked about a blog that I just recently started following. Today I want to share a blog that I have been reading for about five years. It’s a blog by a mother and her daughters called Like Mother Like Daughter. I don’t remember how I found it. It was probably from another homemaking blog as I was always looking for more inspiration and wisdom on how to make and keep my home.

The mother, Leila, has a terrific sense of humor and her mantra of “if I can do it, so can you” is very encouraging. I’m pretty sure I started around about the time she talked about the importance of meals and laundry. She then proceeded, over the course of a couple of years, to outline exactly how to plan meals, cook on a budget, get your laundry under control, and keep a reasonably clean house (Don’t you love that idea! Who has time for a perfectly clean house, and how is that possible when you have children under your feet all of the time? I’m telling you, this woman is a gem. She gets the reality of what our lives are really like rather than the Pinterest perfection lives which we all aspire to and feel guilty about when we fail miserably to achieve them).  She also talks about raising children, marriage, families, and books.  Every once in a while she will post an “Ask Auntie Leila” post, answering a reader question.  I think most of her regular readers think of her as Auntie Leila. I know that I do.

Over the years I have learned much from Leila’s wisdom, enjoyed “watching” her daughters get married and have children, and laughed over her wintertime woes, the crazy DIY projects, and her wry sense of humor, and generally have enjoyed  myself every time a post lands in my inbox.

Leila is Catholic, and her faith is evident in most of what she writes. Although I attend a different church, I can still appreciate so much of what she includes about her beliefs and how they impact her every day life. In fact, she often inspires me to think about how my own faith can and should influence my days, even though they are often different than hers.

You can literally spend days reading her blog and all of the back posts, but here are some of my favorites, the ones I go back to again and again for inspiration, wisdom, and comfort:

Beginnings: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/01/can-your-new-years-resolutions-take/

Homemaking: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2014/07/housewifely/

Dinner: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/01/make-dinner-every-day-and-like-it/

A reasonably clean house: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2010/01/reasonably-clean-fairly-neat-and/

Order and Wonder: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/03/order-and-wonder-or-most-frequently/

Affirmation: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2013/11/affirmation-in-thick-of-things/

Bad Days: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2012/10/10-survival-tactics-for-rescuing-bad-day/

Sundays: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2009/03/let-me-tell-you-one-thing-about-order/

The Library Project: http://www.likemotherlikedaughter.org/2013/06/the-like-mother-like-daughter-library/

I could go on and on and on, but I instead I will let you go dive in for yourselves.  When you lift your head in a couple of weeks, hopefully you will thank me for sending you over there.

Book Review – The Splendour Falls

Chinon, France – with Château de Chinon on the hill

 

Emily Braden has been convinced to go on vacation with Harry, her charming but unreliable cousin.  Harry is going to the town of Chinon in France to look for the lost treasure of Isabelle, one of the Plantagenet queens, and he arranges to meet Emily in Chinon.  Unsurprisingly to Emily, Harry fails to show up on the agreed upon date.   So begins another of Suzanna Kearsley’s wonderful romantic historical mysteries.  

At first Emily thinks nothing of Harry’s absence, but as the days go by without hearing anything from him, Emily grows concerned that perhaps Harry’s failure to appear is more than just his usual forgetfulness.  As she gets to know the other guests in the hotel in which she is staying, she becomes entangled in not only the mystery of Queen Isabelle’s lost treasure, but also the more recent mystery of another Isabelle, who supposedly hid a treasure before taking her own life in World War II.

The cast of characters include a charming Frenchman and his delightful child, two Canadian brothers, an American couple, and an old retainer with secrets of his own, all of whom draw Emily further into the mysteries of Chinon.  Ms. Kearsley’s delightful descriptions of Chinon gave me the sense of being there, and I admit to spending an evening looking at photographs of the French town and reading more about this historical little gem of a city in the Loire Valley in France.  

I was alternatively entranced and dismayed by the unfolding events and kept reading “just one more chapter” until the wee hours of the morning.  The ending was eminently satisfying–the mystery of both of the Isabelles is resolved as is Harry’s disappearance.  My only disappointment is that I would have liked a bit more detail about the two Isabelles and their times.  However, all in all, it was a satisfying read for anyone who likes historical thrillers set in an exotic locale with a bit of romance thrown in, too.